A Bowl of Cherries

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, wondering where June went…

I don’t need an astronomer, or a calendar, or standing stones to know when the summer solstice hits. I’ve got my own personal predictor: the sour cherry tree we planted a couple of decades ago. The cherries are plump and green and just beginning to ripen by the longest day of the year. And by July 4th, they’re all done.

 

Anybody who’s ever been a gardener might know this feeling. You watch the plant’s progress, from dormancy, to blossoming, to fruiting/vegging and ripeness, eagerly awaiting the perfect time to pick. And then the time comes for the first harvest and it feels satisfying and wonderful.

Some years, like last year when we had a late spring freeze that decimated our fruit trees (we have two pear trees as well), we get only a handful. And other years, we get a bumper crop and manage to stay one step ahead of the birds. This is a bumper crop year. So the picking begins.

As does the pitting. And preserving. The thing about sour (pie) cherries is that they are extremely perishable, which is why you almost never find them in grocery stores. I don’t know that I’ve ever even seen any at a farm stand. They must be picked then within hours pitted and preserved or they develop an ugly brown and untasty ring at the stem end. So I have to pick at a time when I know I can do the follow-up work–pitting each individual fruit, then immediately cooking up with some sugar or freezing, to be cooked with sugar later.

Sour cherries are delicious–but they’re inedible until they’ve been properly prepared.

And I feel like that’s a metaphor for writing. Like those cherries between the solstice and Independence Day, ideas come fast and furious sometimes, and some of them will ripen into something wonderful. And some I’ll never get to, because they’re for the birds.

Today, and for the next few, there is no more time for profound thoughts. There are only endless bowls of cherries to process into jam, barbecue sauce, and future pies while binge watching Frankie and Grace on Netflix. But maybe, just maybe, during the repetitive motion of the pitting, a sweet little idea for the next story will emerge. We’ll see.

Do you grow any of your own food (or flowers)? Are there certain types or varieties you plant or harvest every year?

My Big Pile of Books

Jane/Sadie/Susannah here, gearing up for a weekend filled with family, friends, and memories and wishing the same for all of you …

All the talk this week about desks and what we read outside the cozy genre makes me want to combine the subjects. I have a big ole pile of books, which is currently parked on top of my roll-top desk, where I do my day job as well as much of my writing work. Now, this is not my only pile of books (puh-leeze), but it’s the one I look up at most days. Here’s a sample of what’s up there:

The Emotional Craft of Fiction, Donald Maass

The India Fan, Victoria Holt

Caroline: Oxbow’s American Bonaparte, Ethel Comins

Hope Blooms, Jamie Pope

The Rain Sparrow, Linda Goodnight

Writing Screenplays that Sell, Michael Hauge

Our Fans’ Favorites, The Stratton Mountain Boys (this is a CD of traditional German music that we play during our Oktoberfest meals–not sure why it’s there!)

Murder in Chelsea, Victoria Thompson

Pregnesia, by Carla Cassidy

Crazy times, I know. I’ve also included in the picture a couple of other fun things, including my work mascot, Beans the bulldog, a snow globe from my hometown, and an official bottle of Vitameatavegamin from the Lucy and Desi museum.

What’s the craziest thing on your desk?

 

 

While the cats are away…

EDITED TO ADD: The winners of the two advance reader copies are ASHLEY CATE and TOMEKA. Please contact me through my website, http://www.sadiehartwell.com and let me know where to send your books. Thanks, everyone, for playing along!

Jane/Sadie/Susannah here, holding down the fort while the other Wickeds and Accomplices are at Malice Domestic…

This will be my second year in a row missing the cozy-fest known as Malice Domestic. Last year, I was in St. Louis at a robotics competition with my son. And this year, because I started a new job, my vacation time was limited. But you can bet I’ll be cheering on all the Wickeds in the quest for the elusive Agatha Award!

So while everyone else is gone, why don’t we have some fun? I just got a box of advance reader copies of A KNIT BEFORE DYING, book 2 of the Tangled Web Mysteries that will be releasing officially on August 29. And I think today would be a pretty good day to give a couple away, don’t you?

Here’s the blurb:

A new business might add some much-needed charm to downtown Dorset Falls—and draw tourists to Josie’s yarn shop. But when someone gets murdered, a close-knit community could come undone . . .

Shop owner Josie Blair is finally settling into the pace of living in Dorset Falls, Connecticut. Between running Miss Marple Knits, jumpstarting a blog, and handcrafting items with the help of her knitting pals, Josie’s too preoccupied to worry about her past in New York. And thanks to Lyndon and Harry, the owners of the brand-new antique shop next door, she has another project in her midst—repurposing a box of vintage crocheted doilies adorned with the most curious needlework . . .

But before Josie can formally welcome her neighbors, she discovers Lyndon on the floor of his shop stabbed to death by a rusty old pair of sheep shears. Police have pinned Harry as the killer, but Josie isn’t so sure. Now, she’s lacing up for another homicide investigation—and no eyelet or stitch can go unexamined, lest she herself becomes ensnared in the criminal’s deadly design . . .

Leave a comment below, telling me what your favorite thing to do is when you have a free morning or afternoon all to yourself, and I’ll choose two winners randomly. Good luck!

Edited to add: You must comment by 11:59 p.m. today, April 27, to be eligible to win. Winners will be posted tomorrow, so check back.

Being a Tourist

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, wishing I had a clone … 

Not to worry, Wicked People. The bloggers here have not switched from cozy mystery to sci-fi, LOL! I’ve just been super busy.

But not too busy to take a few days with my husband and son, who was home on break, to go to New York City recently. Despite the fact that I only live a couple of hours from the city, when I want an urban experience I usually go to Boston. But New York is fun too–and it’s full of the exact kind of touristy stuff I lo-o-o-ve to do. So what are some of the things we packed into our 4 days?

The Statue of Liberty, of course. We weren’t able to get pedestal or crown tickets (tip: request them WAY in advance), but just walking around the island and listening to the audio tour was incredibly inspiring. Looking up at that green goddess, and really thinking about what she means, and seeing a whole lot of other people from a whole lot of different countries sharing my awe with respect and peace–well, the experience brought tears to my eyes. Not to get too political here, but seeing Lady Liberty up close gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, everything isn’t too broken.

 

Another stop on the trip? The Empire State Building. It took a long time to get through the ticket line, and then a long time to get through the security line (seriously–it’s like going through airport security. It was the same at the Statue of Liberty), but the view from the top, both from the enclosed 86th and open 102nd floors, was worth the wait! We were there on St. Patrick’s Day, hence the beautiful green lighting. Observant sleuths will note that this photo could not have been taken from the Empire State Building, because it is of the Empire State Building. This is actually taken from the Top of the Rock, the observation deck on top of Rockefeller Center. No celebrity sightings at the Rock, unfortunately.

And probably our favorite place? The Museum of Natural History. We spent about five hours there–we could easily have spent a few more, and if the new mummy exhibit had been open, we would have! Night at the Museum fans (secret confession time: I have a crush on Ben Stiller, but alas, no celebrities at the MNH either), these pictures are for you.

Museums and cultural attractions depend on our support–especially the small ones. I never, ever come away from a museum without at least one new creative idea, and it’s usually a lot more than that.

So…when was the last time you took in a tourist attraction? Or a museum near your home that you’ve never visited, or haven’t in a long time? Any places you can recommend?

 

 

 

A Wicked Welcome Back to Laura Bradford

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, dreaming of daffodils…

I’m super excited to bring Laura Bradford, a/k/a Elizabeth Lynn Casey, back to the Wickeds. I asked her some questions recently, and here’s what she had to say:

  1. Tell us about yourself.laura

I’m a mom. I’ve wanted to write since I was ten. I’ve had 29 books contracted since being diagnosed with MS in the summer of 2006.  I love—and I mean, love—to bake (and eat). And if I could only vacation to one place for the rest of my life, I would choose Disney World—I love the innocent joy and the way it lifts my spirits.

  1. Tell us about your series.

How about I tell you about two of them? 😉

silenceflans_front mech.inddFirst, some quick background on the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries, before I get to talk of the latest book.

When the series begins with Éclair and Present Danger, Winnie Johnson (my protagonist) owns a bakery. It’s all she’s ever wanted to do with her life. But the rising cost of rent on the shop soon threatens everything. When she learns she’s been named in a good friend’s will, she thinks she has a chance to stay open. Unfortunately, she soon learns she wasn’t left money but, rather, an old vintage ambulance and a cat that hates the very sight of Winnie. Forced to close her bakery, Winnie is left wondering what she’ll do now. That is until she really looks at the ambulance and sees a way to reinvent her business.

The Silence of the Flans—book # 2—comes out March 7. In an attempt to help de-stress her new boyfriend, Winnie (my protagonist) offers to let one of his business students do a short stint with her Emergency Dessert Squad. The hope is that the hands-on time with a real small business can make the difference between graduating and not graduating for this troubled girl.

Jay (Winnie’s boyfriend) tries to warn her about this particular student. Renee (Winnie’s best friend and employee) tries to convince her to let her go within the first few minutes…but Winnie doesn’t listen.

It’s a decision that may very well derail her new business when the next customer ends up dead—poisoned by one of Winnie’s own desserts.

Now for another new series…

death-in-advertisingDeath in Advertising, the kick-off title in my new Tobi Tobias Mysteries, debuted last month. While the book can be purchased in a trade paperback size on line, the main focus is the e-book and it’s lower price. From a career standpoint, I pursued this contract as a way to get my work in front of the E-audience as the vast majority of my readers, to date, buy physical books. I, too, am a physical book reader, but I know that there is a segment of the population who isn’t. And by reaching them, I hope to grow all of my series.

Death in Advertising is the first book in what, for now, is a three-book series.  All three books will be out in this calendar year so there is no lengthy wait between visits with characters I hope you’ll come to love.

Tobi Tobias (my protagonist) is a fun character. She’s funny, quirky, and, at times, a bit self-deprecating. But she learns a lot about herself as she moves through the books. And her posse of friends—including an African Gray Parrot she pretends to hate—are an absolute hoot to spend time with.

  1. Candy corn. Explain.

I wish I could. I just know that the final day or two of a deadline has me consuming large quantities alongside many glasses of milk. The Brachs Corporation really should consider me as a spokesperson.

  1. You are a very prolific writer. How do you get so much done?

I’m not sure how prolific I am. I have eight years of college tuition to pay (I’m halfway through now!) and that’s quite a motivator to work, work, work if there ever was one.

  1. You’re a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. Which is your favorite book?

On the Banks of Plum Creek. It had everything—girl drama (Laura/Nellie), dramatic moments (leeches!) and everything else you could want in a good book.

Now that I’m thinking about that book, I’m realizing it’s time to do a little re-reading. J

  1. What’s next for you?

A few things.

*The 12th Southern Sewing Circle Mystery—Patterned After Death (written under my pen name, Elizabeth Lynn Casey) comes out in June.

*The 2nd Tobi Tobias Mystery—30 Second Death—comes out in July.

*I’ll be releasing the sixth book in my Amish Mysteries in late summer/early fall.

*The 3rd Tobi Tobias Mystery—And Death Goes To—comes out in December.

*Dial M for Mousse, the third Emergency Dessert Squad Mystery, will be out in January, 2018.

*And a brand new project I’m beyond excited about will debut in the summer of 2018, releasing first in trade with a mass market reprint.  I’ll share more on my Facebook Author page when I can.

Thanks for stopping by, Laura! Readers, what’s your favorite Laura Bradford or Elizabeth Lynn Casey book or series?

Leaving the Comfort Zone

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, who just tried to schedule a dinner date with a friend…on Super Bowl Sunday. In New England. 

Clearly, I’m a little out of touch on certain things.

Since it’s January and all, I thought I’d share with you one of my goals for the New Year. And that is:

Do Things That Require Me To Step Out Of My Comfort Zone

Even just writing that down and putting it out there requires my taking a risk (Success #1, LOL!). I’m pretty sure most of us are in some kind of routine of actions that may or may not be serving us anymore. I may not have been paying attention to the football postseason schedule, but I have been paying attention to things I do just because I’ve always done them that way. For some things, that’s okay (my technique for boiling water, as an example, doesn’t really need tweaking). For others, well, there could be better ways of accomplishing goals and I’ve vowed to be open to new methods.

Health. Like a lot of people, I use January to make a commitment to get healthier. But this year, instead of vowing to lose weight and exercise more, I decided to try something new. For the last several weeks I’ve been following, not a weight loss plan, but a plan that eliminates foods with the potential to cause inflammation and allergies/sensitivity. It is very strict–no dairy, grains, sugar, legumes (which means no peanut butter *sob*), or processed food. Eventually, I can introduce these foods back into my diet one at a time and see what’s causing me problems. I’m not gonna lie. It’s been difficult. But not impossible.

And the results have been astounding. Aside from an almost unbelievable double-digit weight loss, I am sleeping like a baby. I no longer crave a nap in the afternoon. I almost never crave sugar anymore. And most wonderful of all: the chronic stuffy nose I’ve had my entire life is now completely clear. I am giddy with all this extra oxygen. All this, because I took a chance on something that looked too scary, too darned hard, before.

Knitting. Yes, knitting! I taught myself to knit, from instructions in a magazine, when I was 7 years old. I have always had a quirk in my knitting that has required me to fiddle with patterns. Stitches came out with a little twist, unless I knitted into the back of the stitch (basic knitting involves putting the needle into the front of the stitch). Most of the time I can make it work, but some more complicated lace and eyelet patterns just don’t. I have never been able to figure out why–and I never asked anyone to watch my technique and tell me. Finally, I sat down with a basic how-to-knit video on YouTube, and I understood. It wasn’t the knit stitches that were the problem. They came out twisted because I was wrapping the yarn around the needle the wrong direction on the purl stitches on the back side of the knitted fabric. This seems like a small thing but it honestly was like solving a mystery–one I’d put off addressing for decades. Now to train myself to do the purls correctly!

Writing. This year, I vow to write something other than a cozy mystery, in a completely different genre. To stretch myself. To see if I can do it. Just to see what happens. I’ve already begun the research and some of the outlining. I’ll report back on this one.

How about you? Have you taken a risk lately? Tried something new? 

 

 

 

Being Crafty

Susannah/Sadie/Jane here, taking a break from last minute online shopping…

Hello, all. Hope your holidays, however, whatever, and whenever you celebrate, are bringing you much joy.

We talk a lot about the craft of writing here at the Wickeds. But today let’s talk craft of a different kind: handicrafts! As satisfying as it is for me to write stories, and to edit stories for other people, sometimes there’s just no substitute for making a physical object–something useful, beautiful, or just plain fun. So here’s a crafty pattern, with a variation, for you to try:

SADIE’S CANDLE COZIES

For the knitted version, which you can easily make in an hour, you will need:

-Size 13 knitting nesadie-hartwell-picture-1edles

-Bulky weight yarn, about 10 or 12 yards

-A pint-size mason jar, or any glass jar that’s about 5 inches high with a circumference of about 9 inches. Cozy will stretch.

-Small flameless candle

Gauge is not important. Cast on 26 stitches. Row 1: K1, P1 across. Row 2: P1, K1 across.sadie-hartwell-picture-2a

Repeat these two rows until piece measures 5”. Bind off, and sew shorter edges together into a tube. Place tube on jar. Decorate with ribbon, tiny Christmas ornaments, or bits of greenery. Place flameless candle inside and enjoy.

 

For you non-knitters (Gasp!), here’s another version, using a doily. It will take about 60 seconds to make. You will need:

sadie-hartwell-picture-3          -A doily (if you don’t have one of Grandma’s, check thrift stores. Use one with a loose pattern around the outer edge)

-A glass jar that’s shorter than ½ the diameter of the doily. I used a 9” doily and a 4” high jar.

-Paper or cloth ribbon

 

sadie-hartwell-picture-4aThread ribbon through the pattern around the outside of the doily. Place jar in center of doily, and pull the ribbon tight (like a drawstring), creating a ruffle around the top of the jar. Tie off the ribbon. Use some double-sided tape to hold the doily in place if necessary. Fill with a flameless candle, or use as a cute vase as I’ve done here.

What’s your holiday craft of choice? Bonus points if it includes glitter, felt, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, yarn, or hot glue!